By Jim Tortolano/Garden Grove Journal
The lively arts in the Garden Grove-Stanton-Westminster area had an up-and-down year, suffering a major blow from a fire and lighting up other stages with well-received shows ranging from the classics to classic comedy.
In 2011, the biggest arts news was the fire that devastated the historic Gem Theatre on Main Street in Garden Grove. The blaze, which has be
en ruled an accident, came in the middle of the night on May 22, just a few days before the musical “Chicago” was to open on stage.
Damien Lorton, artistic director of One More Productions (resident company at the Gem) first said “It’s not as bad as it looks,” but the theater has been closed since. With the cooperation of Shakespeare Orange County, resident company of the adjacent outdoor Festival Amphitheatre. “Chicago” went on as scheduled, but the rest of the season was cancelled.
The value of the damage was put by fire officials at $500,000.
Lorton is optimistic that the Gem will be able to open in 2012, perhaps as early as April.
The Gem’s neighbors, Shakespeare Orange County, enjoyed a successful year, staging “Julius Caesar” and “Comedy of Errors.” If any performer especially stood out on local stages in 2011, it was probably John Walcutt, who played Cassius, the main conspirator in the assassination of Caesar.
“Walcuttt makes him a very cranky Cassius, grating, belligerent and arrogant,” wrote the Journal’s Brittany Hanson in her review. “This Cassius is the guest at the party who won’t stop talking about politics even though everyone feels awkward.”
David Denman, best-known for his continuing role in the TV series “The Office,” portrayed Marcus Brutus.
In Westminster, two theatrical operations offered productions in 2011. The Westminster Community Theater, now in its 51st year, staged a variety of dramas, comedies and musicals, including “Hay Fever,” “Shadow Box” and “Christmas Belles.”
The Westminster Rose Center Theater, located in the city’s Civic Center area, had an eclectic year of offerings, ranging from a production of “Carousel” to the Miss Senior California of America.
The performing arts were not confined to stages. During the summer, concerts in the park were held in all three cities. Thousands of people turned out for these free musical performances which included a variety of music from Beatles tunes to country music to Latino sounds.
Next week: The local sports year in review.